Saharan silver ant

Researchers at Columbia University are working on a new way to keep buildings cool. They drew inspiration from an unlikely source: a heat-tolerant species of ant called the Saharan Silver Ant. It lives in the scorching desert.

Yu: “They are only active in the middle of the day when the surface of the desert is the hottest.”

In 2015, physics professor Nanfang Yu discovered that this ant’s silvery coating of hair reflects sunlight and radiates heat back to the sky.

Now, he and his colleagues have developed a paint-like material that mimics these functions.

Yu: “So this coating doesn’t heat up under the Sun.”

When applied to a rooftop, it reflects up to ninety-nine percent of sunlight, and emits heat back to the atmosphere.

Yu says that helps cool the building underneath. And it does so far more effectively than white paint, which only reflects certain wavelengths of solar radiation.

If successful, this technology could help reduce the need for energy-intensive air conditioning. Click To Tweet

Yu: “If you put this coating on the top of the roof, that may translate into a saving of electricity in the summertime.”

He says more research and testing is needed before this technology is widely available. But if successful, it could help reduce the need for energy-intensive air conditioning.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.

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